Why I'm Not a Conscientious Objector

I can't condemn war in the way my Anabaptist friends so quickly do.
Why I'm Not a Conscientious Objector
Image: Justin Connaher / Flickr

This June, CT drew attention to veterans’ experiences in the cover story “Formed by War.” To continue the discourse sparked by that story, alongside the Centurions Guild, CT is hosting an online series called Ponder Christian Soldiers. (Read the introduction to the series here, and the following installments here, here, here, here, and here.)

On March 20, 2003, I watched a handful of countries invade Iraq under cover of American air power. I was both horrified and mesmerized—the strange mix of emotions a 19-year-old experiences at the sight of war. Three days later, standing at attention at the Air Force Reserve recruiter's office, I took the oath of enlistment, beginning my journey as a citizen airman.

Nearly 10 years later, in 2012, I leaned against the living-room wall of a house in Gloucester City, New Jersey, surrounded by 30 or so tattooed hipsters from the Philadelphia area. They had gathered to discuss war and what they called the “American military industrial state.” We were Christians, part of a growing community within the New Anabaptist movement, and the house was the hub of the intentional community in which I lived.

I loved that community, and some there were among my best friends, but I struggled that day. As each person took turns denouncing the evils of militarism, I realized I was the only veteran in the room. I felt ashamed for participating in the "war machine," but also annoyed with friends who were oblivious to their own complicity. While they talked about how to resist "war taxes" and frustrate the service system, they didn't mention their contribution to an economy that drives countries to war—not only through fossil fuel ...

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